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Understanding the Social-Financial-Health Connection

Want to live longer and better, and stand a chance of affording to do so? Social relationships play an important role in people’s financial well-being and health.

A 2015 Gallup study found that 90% of Americans doing well financially also reported strong relationships with their spouse, significant other or close friends. And it’s not because they have a lot of money to burn. Americans at all income levels perceive their social relationships with more positivity as their financial well-being improves, boosted as a function of reduced stress and improved financial security.

It makes sense. No topic is more volatile in a relationship than money; financial stress and relationship stress go hand-in-hand. A study by the American Institute of CPAs found that 27% of a surveyed group of married couples or those living with a partner said money is the most frequent cause of arguments. A Kansas State University study found it takes longer to recover from arguments over money, because these fights are more intense and last longer. Over time, such arguments can hurt a relationship.

Research also supports a correlation between your social relationships and your health. A University of North Carolina study found that people with a high degree of “social integration” were at lower risk of impaired physiological functions at every life stage. The opposite also was true, as findings demonstrated “vastly elevated” health risks among those with a lack of social connectedness. Social isolation was just as likely to increase the risk of inflammation as physical inactivity among adolescents, and hypertension among older people than other clinical risk factors.

Health behaviors can be linked to social connections with family and friends, as well as ties with religious organizations, according to a study published in the Journal of Health & Social Behavior. Social contacts, for example, can influence your health habits – instilling a sense of responsibility and concern for others that, in turn, fosters behaviors that are more healthful for individuals and other people.

The study also discovered the opposite can be true as well. Relationship stress can cause long-term behavioral, psychosocial and physiological issues while encouraging risky health behaviors. There can be a “social contagion” of negative health behaviors, exhibited through such mechanisms as social norms.

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